Top of Mind Networks

Welcome to the New World of Reputation Management. Meet Carolyn Capalbo, Realtor.

June 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Carolyn Capalbo

Those of you who have seen me speak over the past couple years know how passionate I’ve become about becoming “Googleable”.  Here’s a classic, and not as rare as you might think, case of one Realtor’s battle against Page 1 of Google.

Carolyn Capalbo is a Realtor in Northern Virginia.  Unfortunately, she shares the same name as Elliot Spitzer’s call girl’s mom.  This unfortunate coincidence is causing Carolyn to have difficult and tiresome initial conversations with potential clients.

Our good friend Mark Madsen wrote an article on Wanna Network explaining what’s happened and every single little blog article is going to help Carolyn gain her online reputation back.  Search engine optimization is a team sport… so if you are game for some good karma, you might just write an article of your own.  I’m sure Carolyn Capalbo would appreciate it!

By the way, this entire effort took me less than 15 minutes from start to finish.  So if you’re still intimidated by blogging, it just goes to show that it gets a lot easier over time.  Get in the game!

Be Where The Buyers Are – Write On High Traffic Real Estate Blogs

January 5, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Diver-in-Middle-of-School-of-Fish-Bali-Indonesia-Photographic-Print-C13481597.jpegMost borrowers starting their home buying related research online generally end up landing on a real estate agent’s top ranking blog or web site.

If you’re in the purchase business game, it makes perfect sense to partner with agents that have high traffic sites which attract your target audience (Buyers).

My Las Vegas mortgage relationship-based business model had a slight set back in 2007 when the local market took a small turn for the worse.

Basically, all of my loyal agents ended up having to find new jobs, and the equity in my past clients’ properties disappeared.

While struggling to research new options, I realized that one of my close friends and Las Vegas agents was actually thriving as a result of his online presence.

Since we had already been working together on his sites for a couple of years, I decided to put all of my eggs in the online basket and go where the buyers were…. The Internet.

Over the course of several years, we chased shiny objects, built a real estate social network, launched some niche FHA and Property Management blogs and scraped our knees along the way.

However, the one thing we could always count on was that thousands of potential buyers were finding us in the search engines every month.

In our online evolution, we realized that the key to our success was getting found in the search engines at the precise moment our target audience was ready to make a buying decision.

In order to maintain those high traffic search rankings we have to invest several hours writing content and building links.

The Result

Thousands of unique visitors a month searching for homes and reading about the mortgage or real estate process on our blogs.

How Does That Traffic Convert?

Well, it depends on how soon these buyers need to close on a property.  Our typical sales cycle is about 4-8 months from the time someone lands on a real estate blog and then closes on a property.

Either way, the agents are busy closing transactions every month that are 100% generated from web traffic.

Keep in mind, these buyers aren’t typical Internet leads that get duped into filling out an online web form which generates hundreds of solicitation calls.

Instead, the people contacting us as a result of finding us online and reading our blogs are more informed and feel a sense of trust.

In essence, by providing valuable educational content on your agent’s site, potential buyers build a relationship with you before they’ve even made that initial phone call.

Main Point:

If you’re in the purchase money game, then the most efficient use of your time online is to contribute some mortgage related content to a local high traffic real estate blog.

Benefit To Contributing Loan Officer:

Get in front of the agent and their clients on a regular basis.

Benefit To Real Estate Agent:

Targeted content, and a lot of it, will attract buyers online that are in their final stages of making a decision to move forward with a home purchase.

Content, Traffic and Links are the three things that a social media savvy agent care more about than anything else.

Benefit To Client:

Education and empowerment.  You may say that you’ve got great service and you’re a consumer advocate, but borrowers expect us to earn their trust and respect these days.

_______

I have the replay of a 60 minute webinar / interview about this strategy posted here:

Partnering With Social Media Savvy Agents Online

This isn’t a secret system with some hidden agenda we’re selling.  The reality is that very few originators will actually follow through with this.

The few that do will make powerful online networking partners.

As my friend Eric Blackwell says: Search Engine Marketing is a team sport.

Either way, it’s gonna take a strong army of mortgage professionals working together for a common goal if we want to bring some honor back to our industry in 2010.

A Tweet Is Not a Status Update – LinkedIn Misses The Mark

November 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

LinkedIn has long been a successful tool for users to build their online, professional identity. Notice that I stressed the word professional. The status update is a relatively new feature of LinkedIn; and in my opinion has been a very useful tool for starting discussions… up until now that is. LinkedIn is in danger is causing people to tarnish that professional identity with SPAM.

twitter                linkedin

I think LinkedIn totally missed the mark with their Twitter integration. The idea in and of itself is not a bad one. And I think if this new integration was used properly it could prove quite useful. But when setting up the integration you get 2 options: either include all tweets or all tweets including the #li or #in hashtags; and my gut tells me the vast majority of users will select the include all option. So now each Tuesday when I get my LinkedIn updates email I will gradually get less and less use out of it. I typically pay attention to each and every status in this email, and it has been invaluable to me in keeping up with my friends, colleagues, and clients. In fact just last week this very email is how I found out our client, Brian McRae, just landed a spot on the St. Louis Fox affiliate talking about the new Homebuyer Tax Credit. But in the coming months I will see less and less useful updates like this one, and more updates like “@mortgagecrm great article on #mrev” and have no idea what they are even talking about.

And the truth of the matter is that a tweet serves a different function than a status update (LinkedIn or FaceBook). A status update is typically way more descriptive in nature. Any outside party looking in should be able to read a status update and have a pretty solid idea of what the author is talking about. Whereas a tweet is by in large more chaotic in nature; often times containing dynamic information such as a comment directed towards another user or a link to another website. Tweets are also very commonly simple syndication of new blog posts or automated messages. The bottom line is that a large percent of the time if you look at a single tweet by itself you will have absolutely no idea what the author is talking about. And I really don’t want these messages in my LinkedIn email updates. LinkedIn would have been better off either forcing users to select the #li #in option (or at least making it the default option), or just displaying the Twitter feed on that user’s profile page vs. making the latest Tweet the user’s status.

How To Pipe Linked In Network Updates Into Google Reader

November 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Short and sweet.  Here’s a 3-minute video I created that shows how you can bring Linked In Network Updates into your Google Reader.  Below the video, I’ve provided a few other helpful articles about Google Reader, just in case you aren’t on board yet.  Sorry for the poor video quality when you maximize – still can’t seem to get this right!

Related Articles:

Mark Madsen:  How to Read 50 Articles in an Hour (Google Reader Intro)

Brian Brady:  Recorded Webinar on How Brian Brady Uses Linked In (Brilliant)

Mark Green:  Meeting Realtors the Google Reader Way

Mark Green:  Google Reader vs. Twitter Lists Discussion

Greetings From Twinsburg Ohio

November 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

mortgage crm

I am chilling out at a local Starbucks and started thinking about how the rapid advances in technology and web 2.0 has impacted my life – both on a personal and professional level. For example:

1) Just a few years ago, I’d have rented the Garmin GPS unit for $15 a day. Lots of people I know own one of these gadgets and paid $600+. But today, all I needed to do was whip out my crackberry and start up the Google Maps app… and boom I have turn-by-turn directions for free. Google has an uncanny way of investing resources into technology we actually use – their investment into their mapping technology confused me at first. Now I am starting to get it. They can basically snap their fingers and put Garmin out of business tomorrow morning if they so choose.

2) Thanks to Facebook, I recently reconnected with a friend I literally grew up with – our parents used to put us in the same crib when we were babies. It has been many years since I have talked to her. Because of Facebook, I learned that she is married with 2 kids and is living in Ohio. Without Facebook, I doubt we’d have ever spoken again. Instead, I’m holding out some hope that I can meet her and her family for dinner tonight.

3) I still am blown away that I can take a photo with my blackberry, email it to a Flicker-appended email address, write the copy of my blog article in the email copy and post it right to the Top of Mind Blog. I learned this trick from Ryan Hartman at Bloodhound Blog Unchained. If you don’t know Ryan, you should take a look at his, hmmm how do I put this… unorthodox marketing style at www.retechulous.com.

We are living in an era of unprecedented innovation and it is really exciting! One minute, Garmin looks like a high flyer (remember that brief moment in time where we all had beepers?). The next minute, you wonder how Garmin survives the next 3 years.

Does Easy Web Content Syndication Help or Hurt Web 2.0?

November 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember when email was the killer app?  Sure, it’s still all that, but Generation Y is all a-twitter with a wave of new communication technologies.  Faster.  More interactive.

Posterous Illustration

Posterous Illustration

Blogging’s all the rage today – well at least it is for me.  It’s still a pure form of expression.  But I’m not sure how I feel about web apps like Posterous yet.  Posterous (and there are a bunch of others) syndicates our content in multiple places simultaneously.  So if I wanted to, I could write this article one time and syndicate it all over the web with the click of a button (Twitter, Facebook, other blogs, etc).  Sounds like a good thing right?

Well doesn’t that remind you of spam email?  In the old days, if we wanted to “syndicate” an email message to multiple people, there really wasn’t a clean and easy way to accomplish that.  Today, you can find an email service provider on every street corner to blast a campaign out the door.

My buddy Chris Brown made this argument for me the other day when he unintentionally posted a photo of his family at lunch to the entire Mortgage Revolution Fan Base, in addition to every other spoke in his web presence.  Think of it this way:  why are the New York Times and Wall Street Journal considered to be elite publications?  The simple answer is that their content is expressly written for their loyal readership.  They employ their own journalists and therefore provide a unique mix of content you cannot find elsewhere.  On the other hand, lesser respected publications fill their pages with less unique content and more syndicated content (ie:  AP, Reuters, etc.).

I want my internet to stay unique – perhaps that’s the traditionalist in me.

But regardless of what I want, simple syndication is here to stay.  We’re dealing with issues of clutter with email today (spam filters) and it will be very interesting to see how we deal with the issue of content clutter online (Google?).  Does anyone see it differently, I’d love to hear your take in the comments if you do.

Supporting My Referral Based Networking with Online Activities: One Man's Plan

November 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

So I was thinking about the value of the personal connection I have with all of my referral based networking partners.  The lunches, the phone calls, the weekly networking meetings and the excited phone calls when you have a referral to share with them.

Over the past year Mark Madsen and Mark Green have opened my eyes to the world of blogs and social networking and I’ve started to look at ways to integrate these ‘new’ tools into the very personal relationships I take great pride in building with my referral partners. 

At first glance it would appear that the lack of that personal touch with referral partners would be detrimental to a strong referral based relationship.  While I agree that the building of those relationships has typically been an ‘in-person’ process I am looking at ways to supplement those relationships, and leverage my time to develop more of them.

With everyone’s lives being so hectic I am finding that short, more frequent interactions with my referral partners is preferred to taking large chunks out of their day for what they may view as a sales call.  I am also finding that most of my referral partners are extremely interested in getting up to date information on a regular basis that will help them to better serve their clients and grow their own businesses.

One of my primary goals for the next year will be to develop my online interactions via blogging, social networking and other endeavors to achieve the following four goals:

1.  Enhance the relationships I currently have with my strong referral partners.  I will provide timely and accurate information that will save them time researching important items and help them build their businesses by identifying new clients and new opportunities to serve current clients.

2.  Offer opportunities for joint marketing and online presence to bring more business to my strongest referral sources.  I love to give back and I’m always looking for ways to do this.  I see an improvement in my online presence as a great way to do just that!

3.  Enhance relationships with my current and past clients.  We always try to create such a great experience that they become referral sources themselves.

4.  Become a known expert in the field and develop ways to create new business from borrowers and new referral sources so that they seek me out when they have mortgage needs.  Wouldn’t it be great to have people seeking you out instead of having to ask them to give you some of their time?

Being new to the online scene I am, of course, a bit nervous about not doing this correctly.  Luckily I have some great mentors and a thirst for wanting to do this correctly.  As we all know – in Real Estate there are only 3 things that matter: location, location, location.

My mantra for my  new approach will be 6 things:

Quality, Quality, Quality 

and

Content, Content, Content

I’m looking forward to learning more from all of the masters in this field.  I am especially excited to meet everyone in person at The Mortgage Revolution!  (Hmmm, I believe many of the masters have already achieved goal #4 – they’ve become experts and they’ve been sought out.  Now I’M excited to meet THEM!  Now that’s what I’m going for with new referral partners!!!)  Imagine if we could get referral partners to find us online and get excited about meeting us .  .  .

So now comes the hard part – getting over the anxiety and just doing it.  I always want to do things ‘right’ from the start but I’m learning that there really isn’t a ‘right’ way to do this.  There are definitely some wrong ways but if I stay on track I don’t need the perfection, I just need to get going!

 I’ll leave you with a thought from an interview with Linked In founder Reid Hoffman.  When asked about starting Linked In and getting something out instead of waiting until they had achieved perfection out of the gate he remarks:

“I frequently tell Internet entrepreneurs, “If you’re not somewhat embarrassed by your 1.0 product launch, then you’ve released too late.” There’s value in launching early, getting engaged with customers, and learning from them. That can direct your progress.”

VERY transferable advice!

See you online!!

Scoble's Not Down With Google Reader Anymore – Why I Disagree With Him

November 1, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Robert Scoble is a tech-geek who works for Rackspace and writes a highly respected/read blog.  He is allegedly one of Google Reader’s heaviest (no, not his weight) users.  Yesterday, he wrote an article on his blog articulating why he’s dumping Google Reader for Twitter Lists.

Scobleizer:  Why I don’t use Google Reader Anymore

Here are his major points, and why I disagree:

1)  Google Reader is Slow

No, Robert.  Google Reader is slow for you.  For the other 99.99% of users, Google Reader is as fast as we need it to be.  These web 2.0 ultra-geeks are interesting to read, and their feedback is critical in moving technology forward at such a blistering pace.  But as an average user, I always take their advice with a grain of salt.  I’m never going to use but a fraction of the functionality of these tools.  Ideally, I won’t spend 21 hours a day in front of my computer “tweeting” or reading other people’s “tweets”.

2)  Google Reader’s UI is Confusing

Funny, but that’s the way I feel about Twitter.  With my Google Reader, I can easily group content into folders.  I go to one place and everything I want is right there.  I don’t need any 3rd party apps such as Tweetdeck (major RAM hog, by the way).  Twitter is information overload.  Information overload can be okay but not when the vast majority of information out there is crap, such is the case with Twitter.  The other thing I cannot stand about Twitter is that it requires you to leave the Twitter app to read the actual content.  In Google Reader, I can read the entire article without opening a new browser window.

3)  Google Reader Makes Scoble Feel Guilty

Apparently, when Google Reader tells Scoble he’s got 1,000 unread items it makes him feel guilty (Twitter doesn’t do that).  Scoble, dude, you need help.  I feel guilty when I think of starving kids in Africa or when I think of the homeless.  Somehow, I’m able to get over the fact that I’m not going to be able to read every article that comes my way.  This is a stupid objection from a pretty smart guy.

4)  Google Reader’s Social Sharing Features Suck

I can only take this one from Scoble.  Personally, I only belong to a few social networks:  Facebook, Twitter, MyBlogLog, and Linked In.  Of those four, I spend about 75% or more of that time on Facebook and Linked In.  So, for me, Google Reader does the trick just fine.  Oh, and by the way, I think the social sharing features within Google Reader kick ass.  After all, it’s because of Bill Rice‘s shared Google Reader articles that I learned of Scobleizer’s article in the first place.

5)  News Appears Faster on Twitter than on Google Reader

This is one of today’s more annoying trends, in my opinion.  Why all a sudden is it so important that we get our news the instant it happens?  Not long ago, we used to have to wait for the morning newspaper to see who won the Lakers game.  Now, if we aren’t getting updates every 4 seconds we’re somehow missing something?  Get a freaking life Scoble.  There’s a big beautiful world out there.  Turn off your computer for five minutes and take some of it in.  Sheesh.

6)  Headline Scanning Is Easier in Twitter Lists

I disagree wholeheartedly with this.  Those hashtags and tiny URL’s make Twitter infinitely more difficult for me to decipher than within Google Reader.  How is Twitter Lists easier?

7)  Twitter Lists is more IPhone Friendly Than Google Reader

Maybe so, I don’t know.  Again, my goal is to have some semblance of a life.

My Summary:

Twitter Lists is definitely cool.  Finally, I am starting to see some value with Twitter – until now I’ve seen Twitter as a bunch of noise.  But I’m not about to dump Google Reader, and for 99% of average web 2.0 users I think Google Reader is a better solution.  Here’s a disclaimer though – Scoble is obviously 100x smarter than me, and it’s very likely that he’s seeing web 2.0 three or four steps ahead of the rest of us.  But today – November 1, 2009 – I still think Google Reader is the most important web 2.0 application for novice to intermediate users.  If you haven’t taken the plunge, here’s a quick article Mark Madsen wrote on the Top of Mind Blog a few months back:

Mark Madsen:  How to Read 50 Articles in an Hour

Google Is #Trending

October 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

readerGoogle announced a few updates to Google Reader last week that I thought were interesting. For those of you who are relatively new to the blogosphere and do not know what Google Reader is or how and why to use it, please read here for the Benefits of Using Google Reader. Anyway, last week Google announced the addition of the new Explore section for their Reader application. One of the features of this new addition is the Popular Items sections. In the spirit of the #trending topics functionality that Twitter provides, Google Reader now uses algorithms to track well-liked images, videos, and pages from the internet and order these items to help you find popular content. This does not always find you content related to your other feeds, but in my limited use of this feature I have already found some off-topic, yet very interesting things.

Another feature that has apparently been around for a while that I never knew about is the Recommendations section. This was tucked away somewhere that I never bothered looking at, but they have now moved it to this new Explore section. This section uses your Reader trends and even web searches to generate a list of feeds that Google and their infinite wisdom think you might like. Using this functionality this morning I actually found a really cool blog that I will now follow.

Google Reader is a killer application for anyone looking to stay in tune with what is going on and the latest trends in their industry. And with this new functionality it just got better. I typically spend about 30 minutes to an hour a day going through my list, and now I can get even more out of that time.

Getting Personal on Facebook

September 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Take the old adage “people buy from whom they trust”.  That simply isn’t true.  People buy from whom they LIKE. 

Has anyone ever told you that they “only use Facebook for business”?  I respect that – different strokes for different folks, right?  But I’m of the opinion that Facebook is a great way to connect on a deeper level with clients, prospects and referral sources.  I prefer I showing my true colors on Facebook, not just to friends and family, but to my business contacts as well.

Think about it, if you and I are friends on Facebook and I’m exclusively updating my status on how geeked I am about Top of Mind, you’re going to get bored with me pretty quickly.  Instead, I like talking about things most of my clients don’t necessarily know about me.  I love The Big Lebowski.  I love my family.  I live for football season.  Inevitably, I end up engaging in conversations with my clients and prospects on Facebook that allows us to get to know each other better.  Maybe even like each other a little better.  Isn’t that the point?

So if you’ve been hesitant to embrace Facebook because you prefer keeping business and pleasure seperate, I’d encourage you to take a step out of your comfort zone and give it a try.  You might get a deal or two out of it, you might not – this really isn’t the point of Facebook.  One thing I can guarantee:  you’ll greatly improve your “Top of Mind Awareness” with your clients.

Disclaimer:  If you’re big into streaking like Will Farrell, maybe this is just a tiny bit too much “showing your true colors”?

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

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